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Need to Know: Last look—A tough task for the Redskins in Dallas

Need to Know: Last look—A tough task for the Redskins in Dallas

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 24, 10 days before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Cowboys 4:30 pm, FOX, Redskins Kickoff 3:30, CSN

Days until: Redskins @ Cardinals 10; Redskins @ Eagles 17; Panthers @ Redskins 25

Injuries of note
Out:
LS Sundberg (back)
Questionable: DE Chris Baker (hamstring/illness), WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

Take it away: The Cowboys have been very sticky fingered all year long but particularly lately. They have just two turnovers in their last four games. A Cowboys takeaway is an ever more unusual occurrence; they have one in their last four games and none in their last three. In their last four games the Redskins have given the ball away four times and they have five takeaways. The Washington offense had no turnovers for the first time this year against the Packers. If the Redskins can keep their grip on the ball and perhaps force one or two takeaways on the Cowboys they will be in pretty good shape.

When you get it, keep it: The Dallas defense has faced just 600 plays this year, an average of 60 per game. Only two teams have faced fewer. Once teams do manage to get the ball after Zeke Elliott’s running and Dak Prescott’s short, accurate passes grind up the clock they move the ball fairly well. They average run 6.4 plays per drive (25th in the NFL) and 34.8 yards per drive (27th). The bottom line is that they allow an average of 1.92 points per drive, in the middle of the pack, 17th in the NFL. In these terms, they are an average to below average defense. The Redskins need to take advantage of that and put together long drives to keep the Dallas offense off the field.

Dez vs. Josh: A year ago, the Panthers thumped the Cowboys and Josh Norman, then with Carolina, helped hold Dez Bryant to two catches for 26 yards. Last September Bryan had a much better day, catching seven for 102. Norman did not follow Bryant from side to side in Week 2 until the fourth quarter in a classic case of locking the barn door after the horse had been stolen. Bryant dealt with injury and he has just 28 receptions on the year. But he has been heating up lately with a combined 12 receptions for 196 yards. Joe Barry should let the cornerbacks play sides to start out; Bashaud Breeland has had some success against Bryant in the past. But if Bryant starts to get on a roll Barry can’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

How will we like them after the game? This is the Redskins’ toughest assignment of the season and it really isn’t close. The Cowboys are on a roll, they are at home, and they are very confident. The Redskins also are hot and confident but they are dealing with a bad matchup. Their rushing defense is one area where the team continues to struggle. I don’t see them stopping, or even slowing down, Elliott running behind that Dallas offensive line. That will make it a tough go because even in a passing league it’s going to be a long day when the other team can run on you. I think the Redskins’ best chance will come if Norman can come through with a big takeaway, maybe a pick six. Since he has managed just one interception this year you can’t count on that happening.

Cowboys 30, Redskins 24

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

If you find yourself looking for Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, you really just need to find one of them. Odds are, if you locate one, the other two will be close by.

The second-year pro, third-year pro, and fourth-year pro have forged quite a bond on the Redskins' defensive line, which is easily the team's most promising unit going into 2019. The three guys share an appreciation for lifting really heavy weights and dropping opposing quarterbacks. 

As it turns out, that latter love is actually part of the inspiration behind a bet Payne, Allen and Ioannidis have queued up for the 2019 campaign. Payne revealed that while with Larry Michael on a recent episode of Redskins Nation.

"Me and Jon and Matt got a little competition right now on sacks and tackles," he said with a smile, but he ultimately didn't shed any light on what the competition's compensation will be.

Whatever the trio is playing for, it should be a close race.

Ryan Kerrigan led the 'Skins in sacks in 2018, but Allen (8), Ioannidis (7.5) and Payne (5) were second, third and fourth respectively. In terms of tackles, meanwhile, it went Allen (61), Payne (56) and then Ioannidis (31). 

Allen and Payne saw a ton of snaps last year while Ioannidis was used more in a rotational role, which limited his tackles. He's an insanely productive pass rusher, though, so he can make up some ground in the sacks/tackles bet by keeping that trend going. Any of them are a solid pick if you're trying to project who'll capture their title.

Payne, for one, expects to generate better numbers in his second go-round in the league.

"Of course," he responded when Michael asked if he left some sacks out there as a rookie. "Definitely did. I want to get a couple more."

In the team's offseason practices, he's already noticed that things are "coming easier," so perhaps he'll be able to record those extra takedowns he's looking for.

As mentioned earlier, you can make an easy case for Payne, Allen or Ioannidis to win their competition, but you won't know who that winner is until late December.

One thing you can already say, however? That the QBs and running backs they'll be chasing down are the losers in this thing. That much is already known.

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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

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Three little-known Redskins who could make things interesting at training camp

Ah, NFL training camps. They're where every handoff always results in a first down, safe from refs who can ruin things with one piece of yellow cloth and home to roster sleepers.

This story, though, is devoted solely to the third item on that list.

JP Finlay came up with his post-minicamp Redskins roster projection earlier this week and has said he's already extremely confident in roughly 49 of his 53 picks. What can really throw off those kinds of projections, though, is the emergence of little-known players at training camp.

Now, trying to find the next Rob Kelley or Quinton Dunbar or Cam Sims can come off as foolish, considering Washington will bring 90 players to Richmond in late July. However, using observations from offseason practices so far and clues from what coaches are saying can narrow the list of potential preseason difference makers.

So, here are three Redskins who seem like they could seriously shake things up when the Burgundy and Gold reconvene for the summer grind.

Jeremy Reaves

When he's asked to critique a certain position group, Jay Gruden often does this thing where he lists every player in that group, from starter to backup to fringe option. It's hard to discern the times when he's doing that just to be polite from the times when he's doing that because each name truly is relevant.

Jeremy Reaves' name, however, has come up twice at two very different points of the spring and early summer.

Here's Gruden from after the draft, when he was asked about what the Redskins have at safety.

"We still have Montae [Nicholson]. We obviously drafted [Troy] Apke last year, which is a pretty good option. We have [Jeremy] Reaves here in the building. He's doing some good things, did some great things at the end of the year on practice squad. And Deshazor [Everett] and Landon [Collins]. So, we have five pretty good safeties."

Here's Gruden a month and a half later, after the team's last open OTA session, again addressing that secondary spot.

"Apke is doing well. It has been good to see him get a lot of these reps and work. Obviously, last year he did not get a whole lot with his hamstring, so he is progressing nicely. Everett also has picked up the slack. He has done a very good job. Reaves, he made some big plays out there today. So, those guys are taking advantage of their time."

With Collins, Nicholson, Everett and Apke, the defense should be set on the back end. Those four all feel quite locked in.

Yet Nicholson is coming off of an unpredictable second year as a pro, while Apke couldn't get healthy at all in 2018 after a hamstring issue. Perhaps Reaves, who Gruden also called an "upcoming talent" last December, can pick up the slack if either of those DBs drop off.

Sure, the path won't be easy for Reaves, but one thing's for sure: It's better to be brought up by the head coach than not, and he's being brought up relatively frequently.

Craig Reynolds

Craig Reynolds is an undrafted rookie running back who played for the Golden Bears in college.

No, not the California Golden Bears. The Kutztown Golden Bears. Yes, that's a real school, and yes, it's fine if you've never heard of it.

Reynolds could be the longest longshot of the three players on this list, but guys like Kelley, Mack Brown and Marcus Mason have come from a similar level of anonymity to take fall snaps in the 'Skins backfield.

If you look at the RB depth chart, Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson are making the 53 barring anything crazy. Bryce Love will probably hit the PUP, but he's in the franchise's plans, too.

That means Reynolds will have to compete with the likes of the quite popular Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, but he should see plenty of action late in preseason games. He averaged more than 150 total yards per game last year at school — indeed, it was Division II, that's a very fair counterpoint — but it feels like the chances to make impressions on Gruden and Randy Jordan in precious live action will be there. It's not like Peterson or Thompson will be used that much, anyway.

Plus, if Perine starts fumbling again or Marshall gets injured as he did in 2018, Reynolds could see those chances grow. He just has to seize every one that comes his way.

Donald Parham

Tight end feels like another position that should be simple. Jordan Reed is the star, Vernon Davis is still around despite a somewhat heavy contract and Jeremy Sprinkle is entering Year 3. If Davis or Sprinkle face any competition, you'd expect it to come from the likes of Matt Flanagan or JP Holtz.

You shouldn't ignore Daniel Parham, however. In fact, it's pretty much impossible to.

Parham signed with the 'Skins on June 7, and the 6-foot-8(!) pass catcher was on the receiving end of more than a few passes once he got going. Not surprisingly, he made the most plays in red zone situations, giving QBs like Dwayne Haskins a very appealing target to throw to. 

The Stetson product probably won't add much of anything as a blocker. Remember that Gruden doesn't like using one-dimensional tight ends, so that could hurt him. Going off that, some scouting services even think he'd be best served lining up consistently in the slot. 

Regardless, you just don't see many people at his size running downfield routes, and his potential is noticeable. A few preseason highlights on jump balls could help him stick around past August. 

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